Surrey Police: Child protection work a cause of concern
HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has today published the report of an inspection in June 2015 of the child protection work carried out by Surrey Police. This is part of a rolling programme of child protection inspections of all police forces in England and Wales.
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Inspectors were pleased to find:
- the chief constable is committed to improving services for children. The force has taken some steps to improve child protection arrangements, such as investment in additional staff for child protection work;
- most staff responsible for managing child abuse investigations are committed and dedicated to providing the best possible outcomes for children;
- the force had recently strengthened its governance arrangements for child protection to provide better oversight and scrutiny and improve performance; and
- children arrested under the provisions of section 136 of the Mental Health Act with mental health problems were taken directly to hospital, and not brought into custody suites.
However, inspectors were concerned to find:
- child abuse investigations are being undertaken by insufficiently skilled and knowledgeable staff and are often of a poor standard leaving children at significant risk;
- a lack of understanding of the signs of child sexual exploitation and sexual abuse on children and an inconsistent response across the force area;
- the protection of some children who regularly go missing from home is inconsistent. Early intervention and long-term inter-agency planning is often ineffective; and
- ineffective management of the risk posed by suspects in some cases of child abuse.
HMIC assessed 31 case files relating to children. The force’s approach to protecting children was inadequate in over half the cases we assessed. Seventeen of these cases left HMIC with serious concerns that children were not being adequately protected and we requested the force take immediate action to ensure the safety of the children involved. Inspectors were concerned to find cases that displayed a lack of investigative action, unnecessarily long delays and little evidence of any meaningful supervisory oversight.
Because of the nature of the failings identified in the inspection, HMIC had concerns about the force’s ability to protect children who are at risk in Surrey.
HM Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham said:
“Protecting children is one of the most important tasks that the police undertake. The leadership team in Surrey Police is committed to improving service for children. In this inspection HMIC found that although the force has taken steps to improve its child protection arrangements – it still has a long way to go. Our inspection identified some serious failings in the way the force responds to children who need help and protection. We set out four recommendations designed to lead to improvements when implemented.
“While not underestimating the scale of the challenge the force faces in improving its service to children, I am encouraged that the leadership team has already taken significant action to address the concerns that we have identified. For example the force has increased the number of detective constables and sergeants in its safeguarding investigation units, it is promoting a comprehensive child sexual exploitation awareness campaign and it has improved its own systems so that staff are better able to identify those who are vulnerable or at risk.
“I commend the force for the significant progress that it has made since this inspection. I also recognise that some of the changes will take time to have an effect and there is still considerable work to do. I have therefore asked the force to update me regularly on its progress in implementing its action plan for improvement.”
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- Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is inspecting the child protection work of every police force in England and Wales. The reports are intended to provide information for the police, the police and crime commissioner (PCC) and the public on how well children are protected and their needs are met, and to secure improvements for the future.
- Under the National Child Protection Inspection (NCPI) programme, HMIC will assess how effectively each force in England and Wales safeguards children and young people at risk, make recommendations to forces for improving child protection practice, highlight effective practice in child protection work and drive improvements in forces’ child protection practice.
- In July 2015, HMIC published ‘In harm’s way: the role of the police in keeping children safe’ – based on findings from 21 inspections on the police response to child protection conducted over the last two years. This incorporates inspections from the first eight forces inspected under the NCPI programme.
- HMIC is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the efficiency and effectiveness of police forces to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects all 43 police forces in England and Wales, together with other major policing bodies.
- For further information, HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 8:30am – 5:00pm, Monday – Friday on 020 3513 0600.
- HMIC’s out-of-hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 07836 217729.